Oscar’s Vine Society
Cheese and wine, Sheikh Zayed Road 33 Reviews
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In the evenings, a trip to Oscar’s Vine Society in the Crowne Plaza, no doubt, offers a warm and welcome respite in a city where restaurant service can sometimes seem somewhat cool (in spite of the soaring temperatures). That the staff always greet with a relaxed and sincere smile (no overselling here), the drinks menu lists 40 wines by the glass and more than 100 by the bottle, and the bar serves up simple, though flavourful French, fare, all contributed to Time Out naming Oscar’s Best Wine Bar in 2008. Until recently, however, oenophiles could only satisfy their cravings at Oscar’s after 6pm. Now, however, the bar is open for lunch.
While Oscar’s has all the ingredients to make it an obvious choice of venue for a nightcap and a nibble, I wondered whether the atmosphere would be as inviting in the afternoon. After all, how many of us are there in Dubai, willing to interrupt our day for a noon-time glass of cabernet? Based on my own lunchtime visit, I’d say not many. Except for a couple of stragglers, I was the only customer in there from one until three.
For all its oaky charm – Oscar’s is modelled to look like a wine cellar, complete with textured walls and tables made from old wine barrels –the starkness of the lunchtime environment can’t help but detract from the venue’s otherwise innate charms. In the evening, the dim lighting and 40s Parisian jazz oozing from the stereo, when coupled with a hip, wine-loving crowd, lend the place an almost Bohemian air. When those same attributes mix with an empty space, however, the same room can seem, well, rather lonely.
That is, at least, one way to look at it. Dining in an empty space also happens to be an ideal way to fully appreciate the restaurant’s fine French fare. Without the distractions of good company, the sole focus becomes the food, and, fortunately in this case, the food is not only good, but reasonably-priced as well. A three-course meal will set you back a mere Dhs105; two-courses, just Dhs75.
Though choices on the lunch menu are somewhat limited (three options for starters and main course, and a choice between a cheese plate and an apple pie to finish things off), the selection epitomises classic French cooking. A starter of warm goats cheese salad didn’t offer any bells and whistles. What it did offer was a refreshing bed of mixed greens, topped with two slices of warmed bread underneath hunks of a sweet and creamy French-imported goats cheese, complimented by streaks of syrupy vinaigrette.
For a main course, I decided to forgo the veal blanquette, a hearty veal and vegetable stew that sounded too heavy for the warm weather, and opted instead for the weekly special: hammour wrapped in parma ham, topped with sautéed tomatoes and a basil-tomato sauce, and served alongside steamed potatoes. The flavours mingled as effortlessly as a Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin duet.
Dessert, a French apple pie, was an almost perfect affair, marred only by the fact that it was served ice cold and that the crust, though intensely flavourful, was so hard that when I tried to crack it with my spoon, the force sent a sizable piece flying into the air, and, ultimately, onto the cement floor. What I could salvage, though, I relished in silence.
The Bill (for one)
2x three-course lunch Dhs105
1x glass white wine Dhs32
1x bottle water Dhs15
Total (including service) Dhs152
By Daisy Carrington
- Previous reviews
- 15 April,2013- reviewed by Time Out Dubai staff
- 22 May,2012- reviewed by Penelope Walsh
- 21 March,2012- reviewed by Time Out Dubai staff
- 28 March,2011- reviewed by Time Out Dubai staff
- 22 September,2010- reviewed by Holly Sands
- 17 March,2009- reviewed by Time Out Dubai staff
- 26 March,2008- reviewed by Jeremy Lawrence
Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.